Zebbug, Gozo

Żebbuġ – History

The village of Żebbuġ is situated about 3.5 km away from Rabat, the Capital of Gozo and is situated in the northern part of the island. Considered as the highest village in Gozo above sea level, Żebbuġ is first recorded as ‘zebugi’ in a document dated 1st September 1492. However, various archaeological finds in the area suggest that the village might have been inhabited since prehistory.

Żebbuġ, which also covers the coast including Marsalforn Bay, has also been recorded as a tourist destination since the 17th Century. Żebbuġ derives its name from a Maltese word olive tree or else from food products or tools, which were used to produce olive oil. Zebbug is Maltese for ‘olives’ or ‘olive trees’, olea europeaea, in Arabic Zejtun. It In Arabic, Żebbuġ means ‘wild olives’, olea silvestris, that differs from the cultivated variety mainly in the spiny lower branches and small leaves and drupes. Some wild olive trees must have been growing beneath the southeast ridge of the village and not on its top, where the northwesterly winds are strong enough to uproot them. It was from these żebbuġ that eventually the hill got its name.

Marsalforn is one of the best-known fishing village of the Maltese islands. Part of Żebbuġ, Marsalforn is the most popular resort with both locals and tourists. Marsalforn, as a name might be a composite word of Arabic derivation. Marsa, derived from an obsolete Arabic verb rasa’a, means, “to be at anchor”, hence marsa means “a harbour where ships come to anchor”. It might also be likely that this name, like that of other Gozitan ports, might refer to a type of ship. In that case it would derive from Liburna. An Illyrian type of a ship, which became livurna in Greek, and lifurna in Arabic, thence Marsalforn means “the vessels’ harbour”. The name might also have been derived from forna, a word used by Gozitan fishermen to refer to ” a cave hollowed out by the sea”. There were more than one of these at Marsalforn, the best known being Għar Qawqla, “the cave at the steep hill”.